Fighting Against Pride: A Sex Addict's Struggle
At Pure Life Ministries, we've discovered that the root of sexual sin is the result of a proud heart that is self-indulgent and self-promoting. The key to finding real freedom is in putting that self-centered lifestyle to death. We brought Luke Imperato, a biblical counselor in our Residential Program into the studio to help us get a better understanding of this connection between pride and sexual sin. (From Episode #422 - Exposing How Pride Takes Root in Our Hearts)
Nate: Luke in Pastor Steve Gallagher's book, i: the root of sin Exposed, he defines what the self-life is, and how it is the source of sin in our lives. What I want to do now is offer some more pointed teaching to men and women who may be listening because they want help with sexual sin. I want them to see how the truths in this book will greatly help them uncover the root of their sin issue.
Pastor Steve wrote in the intro, "A man's sexual addiction is merely the symptom of a much deeper problem. A toxic mixture of pride and self-centeredness has created a hot house where sin of every variety can thrive." Since you're one of our counselors, I was hoping that you could take a look at the subject from a counseling perspective. Most of the men who have come to us are coming out of the church. I would guess that the vast majority of these men are aware that self-gratification and pornography and visiting prostitutes are sinful practices. And they have all probably asked God to help them and to forgive them. Some have read books and gone to seminars, but continue to give themselves over to sexual sin. So then, they come to Pure Life Ministries to understand why none of these things have helped them. And we tell them that their real issue is pride. That can be really confusing to somebody, so I want you to help people understand what is the connection between pride and sexual sin.
Luke: Sure, thanks Nate. The struggle that you're describing was my story. I came from church. I grew up in church and was involved in ministry and so when I came to Pure Life Ministries, I was certainly looking for the formula - the missing piece of the puzzle - as to why I was still struggling with sexual sin even though I'd tried all those things you mentioned. I tried the fasting. I tried reading the books. I tried, you know, crying out to the Lord for him to take it from me. But I thought, "OK, there's something that I'm really."
So when I got here, like you say, what got challenged was the self-life or pride, and I was like, "Well this is an interesting approach. I've never looked at it this way before." I think what it came down to is, for me, I was making a lot of excuses for my sin. I was blame shifting, justifying, and in many ways minimizing and not taking personal responsibility for the sin that I was in. But if I'm not taking personal responsibility for my sin, then when someone comes at me saying, "You know you are willingly doing this sin. There's no excuses. You need to take responsibility for the sin that you're committing." Then it becomes a battle of the will. And for me, I saw that my will hadn't been surrendered to the Lord because I was committing sin on a regular basis. So then it started to make sense why they were getting after a self-life, a prideful life, because the fruit of how I was living showed that I wanted to do things my way, and not God's way.
Nate: Which is pride.
Luke: Which is pride! I was raising my standards above the standards of the Bible. And when I saw that, I began praying for God to break my will because that was the real problem. It was me! I was doing these things. So my whole view changed. it was a different way of dealing with sexual sin that I'd never approached before.
Nate: So let's zoom in on a specific kind of a guy that we encounter a lot. It sounds like maybe you were in this same camp. They hate the consequences of their sin, the shame, the misery, and sometimes it's led to financial ruin. It's also led to the ruin of their marriages. They don't like the guilty feelings, but like you said they're still holding on to the sin because they are willingly committing it over and over and over. So can you help us understand a little bit more how that kind of a mindset, which holds on to sin but hates the consequences, is self-centered and proud?
Luke: If you look at Christianity from a humanistic point of view, where the purpose of serving God is to better please myself, better fix my circumstances and ultimately to get me to heaven instead of hell, this could make Christianity become a very selfish religion. We get focused on the many side effects of our sexual sin: the shame, the embarrassment, the loss of money, and the inconvenience that messes up our personal lives. We focus on how it messes with family life, our jobs, our incomes. And if we're going to church as professing Christians it doesn't make us look good. But what we're missing is that the purpose of serving God isn't just to fix my circumstances. It's about the testimony of Jesus. It's about honoring the name of Jesus. When we want freedom just to fix these areas of our life without trying to glorify Jesus, it's really all still just selfish.
Nate: Luke, let's make a clarification real quick. I think some people get tripped up over this. The idea that a person could be crying out to God and asking him take their sexual sin away from them, and yet there will is still engaged in their sin in such a way that they don't really want to be free. How can that happen?
Luke: You've got to be brutally honest with yourself. Because when I was struggling with regularly viewing pornography after a bad night, I would cry out to the Lord in repentance. At least a kind of repentance to remove the guilt that I was feeling. It was terrible and I didn't want to feel that again, so I would close my laptop that had unfiltered Internet and I would put it down next to my bed and go to sleep. The next evening I would come home from work, take out my laptop with the unfiltered Internet again, and just start surfing the web. The next thing you know I was viewing porn again. On one hand we really want to be free, but when Jesus describes battling sexual immorality, He tells us to cut off your right arm and pluck out your right eye. He charges us to take radical maneuvers to really fight this sexual sin.
I didn't do that. I lied, I didn't get my computer out of my room, I didn't talk to anybody, I didn't do anything other than a cry for help when I was feeling guilty. I wasn't really fighting sexual sin or doing everything in my power to break free. We naturally just do what we want. If we really want to break free of our sexual sin we would do whatever it takes to break free from it.
Think of the amount of effort that we put into pursuing our lusts. We will hide and come up with elaborate plans. We will work out every detail of how to hide our tracks. We'll cover things and sneak around to get what we want. I've traveled hours to meet up with someone. It's insanity that we'll put forth all of that effort to pursue our sin, but when we're trying to get free of it, if we don't get an answer from a five minute prayer then we blame God. Well, that's just not true. It's not reality. We have to be honest with ourselves. In many cases, we're not really fighting.
Nate: One of the things I've heard from Jordan Yoshimine, our Director of At-Home-Programs, is that it's totally possible to go through one of our counseling programs and yet never deal with the self life. You can do a great job in your homework. You can keep all the rules. You can even abstain from giving over to your sin for nine months. Yet there's a danger that you're still not dealing with the root. Why do we say that?
Luke: Yes, that's a good point, and it makes sense when you think about it. We can think that if we go to Pure Life Ministries to deal with our sexual sin, and then we leave with it gone, mission accomplished right? This way of thinking is a distraction technique, because the real issue is the self-life. The real reason we've committed sexual immorality is because our sinful nature has been in charge most of our lives. Paul helps us out with this in Galatians five when he talked about the fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh. These are the two forces battling within us.
He shows us that sexual immorality is one of the many works of the flesh. So we can take sexual immorality out of our lives altogether, and we still have five or six other works of the flesh in full operation and not actually be producing the fruit of the Spirit. Paul tells us that to really be a follower of Jesus, our whole sinful nature needs to be crucified, needs to be dealt a decisive blow, so that the Holy Spirit can take charge and produce His fruit of love, joy, peace and so on. So the issue is when you just take away sexual sin but you don't deal with the deeper issue of why they're living in sexual sin, your staying superficial. Then this person will just act out in another way.
Nate: I know we've had some guys who've made it through the program, but when you really try to dig deeper and ask them who's in charge of their lives, who makes the decisions and what they're do after the program, it's obvious they are still in charge they're not going to be told what to do. Then we know it's just a matter of time before they go back to sin.
Luke: You know Nate, it's interesting. It seems that my entire life can just be a battle between my will and God's will. We can end up frustrated and saying woe is me, because all we see is the continual crucifixion of our sinful nature. It may appear like that at first, but it's my personal testimony that once you really deal a death blow to your self-life, and you really let the Lord take over and the Holy Spirit is now running your life, then you really begin to experience a true joy, peace, patience, kindness. Then you really begin to experience all the fruits of the Spirit coming out of a life that is fully surrendered to the Lord. You begin following the Holy Spirit's leading in every way, where every good thing we have is coming from the Lord. That's my testimony. It's a praise report that we have an awesome God who, when we surrender our life to Him, fills us with good things.